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The Rules Do Not Apply

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  27,153 ratings  ·  2,540 reviews
A gorgeous, darkly humorous memoir about a woman overcoming dramatic loss and finding reinvention—for readers of Cheryl Strayed and Joan Didion

When thirty-eight-year-old New Yorker writer Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true.

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Hardcover, 207 pages
Published March 14th 2017 by Random House
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Michelle Mock Medically speaking (and depending on where you live), usually anything after 20 weeks is considered a premature birth and is not classified as a misca…moreMedically speaking (and depending on where you live), usually anything after 20 weeks is considered a premature birth and is not classified as a miscarriage.

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Average rating 3.74  · 
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 ·  27,153 ratings  ·  2,540 reviews

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Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hmm. The writing on a sentence level is exquisite. Levy's vocabulary is just superb. This is an interesting book. Levy demonstrates self awareness and is willing to put herself on the page in uncomfortable but compelling ways. The end of the book is a mess. The last few chapters are just baffling given the strength of what precedes them.

There is also this awkward strain of unexamined white girl privilege throughout. Now, is such examination mandatory? Of course not. But whew. The lack of it is
Always Pouting
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm just going to talk openly about what happens in the memoir because it seems as though it's mostly all out there as is, and so I don't want people yelling at me about spoilers. The literal summary provided makes even the miscarriage clear. Ariel Levy was thirty eight when she got pregnant, before which she had been ambivalent about having a child. Ariel wanted a child but she also wanted to pursue her ambitions in journalism and create a financially stable life for herself. Her desire to live ...more
Who is this Ariel Levy, anyway? It’s always a risk to read a memoir by someone you’ve never heard of, or who isn’t a blogger with lots of creds. I’ve been burnt before. But this is definitely a keeper. Levy, at 38, had it all, and was dazed with happiness as she looked forward into the future. And then Poof! It’s gone. In a nanosecond her life turned to hell.

Levy is an excellent writer. When I read that she worked for The New Yorker, I figured her writing would be exceptional, and it is. The st
Melissa Stacy
The literary memoir "The Rules Do Not Apply" is all about a privileged white woman who has led a charmed life. The author has been raised to assume she has control over all aspects of her life because nothing traumatic has ever happened to her, or anyone in her family, and she has had a successful writing career, according to plan. She has grown up believing she should "have it all" in life, and she actively pursues that goal throughout childhood and into her adulthood.

Author Ariel Levy assumes
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I didn’t know anything about Ariel Levy – who is a writer with The New Yorker -- but the description of her memoir sounded interesting. Well, it turns out that I would probably be happy to read anything by Levy and I need to look for some of her other writings. Her memoir deals with terrible personal losses she suffered a few years ago. She talks about her childhood, her early years as a writer and her history of relationships. This background is presented as a build up to the events that turned ...more
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs
This memoir got a lot of hype, some of which is justified.

Ariel Levy has some strong passages in the book, but parts of it felt padded and unfocused. The Rules Do Not Apply is an extension of an article Levy wrote in The New Yorker on a horrible miscarriage she suffered while reporting in Mongolia. The story of the miscarriage is heartbreaking, along with her grief when she later lost her spouse, Lucy.

"For the first time I can remember, I cannot locate my competent self — one more missing person
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
To talk about this book, I have to also talk about memoirs and my relationship with them in general. This book challenged me and my ideas of memoirs, especially those written by women. I have talked about my enjoyment of memoirs elsewhere so it is safe to say that it is a type of book I gravitate to and read a lot of.

Ariel Levy’s memoir is a memoir about loss: the loss of her child, her spouse, and her house. She talks in absolute honesty of that loss and of the person she was beforehand, a pers
Ariel Levy always believed she could be a writer. Her mother told her it was a good idea, a normal thing for a pre-teen to aspire to, something for a teen to aim for. She was in her late teens when she wrote for New York magazine about a bar in Queens where enormously heavy women danced for men, and presumably women. The women wore brightly colored clothes, high heels, and sequins for anyone who lusted for heavy. It made the women feel desired.

Levy was allowed to grow up thinking that sexuality
Julia Shaw
Mar 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
It's tough to rate a grief memoir without feeling like you're making a personal comment about the author or her experiences, so I feel a need to qualify my choice of three stars... I'm very impressed with the author's writing skills and empathize with the grief she felt over her miscarriage and her spouse's alcoholism. But based on the Goodreads star descriptions I think this is solidly an "I liked it" book, without reaching the level of "really liked" or "amazing." This isn't a book that will t ...more
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Idarah by: What Should I Read Next Podcast
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I rarely sit down with a book only to look up hours later and realize I've consumed it in its entirety. Such was the case with The Rules Do Not Apply! It was recommended on a Podcast, and I knew nothing else going into it besides the fact that it was a memoir. Though achingly depressing, and self-deprecating, it's a beautifully written book, full of honesty, hope, humor and self-awareness. I procrastinated in filing my taxes, so I finished the last pages of it in the waiting room of a Jackso
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I had read such mixed reviews of this one that I almost didn't read it, but I'm glad I did. Where other people saw an unlikable writer, I only saw honesty, about relationships, deciding what kind of life you are going to have, etc. I sat and read it cover to cover.

One example:
"I wanted what she had wanted, what we all want: everything. We want a mate who feels like family and a lover who is exotic, surprising. We want to be youthful adventurers and middle-aged mothers. We want intimacy and auto
Ashley (pawingthroughpages)
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs, own

I won this book in a giveaway and was really pumped to read it. Memoirs are hard to rate, I don't want to come off as judging the author personally. Ariel is good at writing without a doubt, but her storytelling was all over the place to me, especially at the beginning. What happened to her was tragic and traumatizing, and those chapters were heartbreaking. But otherwise everything else felt superficial and lacking depth. I wanted more from her personally and a cohesiveness that flowed.
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2017
One hell of a memoir - visceral and beautifully written. I disliked her intensely for most of the book but that matters not a whit. I admire her unflinching candor. This is one I won't soon forget.
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
I did not know who Ariel Levy was prior to hearing about her book, The Rules Do Not Apply. After finishing it, I have mixed feelings. I feel there was quite a bit of hype for the book, and while parts of it were good, I don't know If I'm as into it as many other readers seem to be.

I read the book in two separate sittings and had a much easier time reading and liking the first part, even being aware of the ultimate outcome of the story (which is revealed very early on in the book). The loss she
Julie Ehlers
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm in Ariel Levy's camp for life. While I thought Female Chauvinist Pigs didn't quite live up to its potential, I appreciated its thesis and Levy's engaging writing, and reading her New Yorker essays in subsequent years cemented my admiration. When I learned that The Rules Do Not Apply was based on her unforgettable essay "Thanksgiving in Mongolia," I became desperate to read it, and this book did not disappoint—I inhaled it in two days, riveted by both her story and her way of telling it. Thos ...more
Nat K
"All of us assumed we still had time for reinvention."

Grim. I read this with gritted teeth.

I can't pinpoint exactly what frustrated me with this book. Perhaps it was the tone? I simply found it hard to relate to Ariel Levy, or what she was writing about.

Undoubtedly she is a good writer, and I cannot fault this aspect of the book. But the content...the passive/aggressive whiny perpetual dissatisfaction with her life I found frustrating.

"I was making rules, and changing them, and not always follow
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
WARNING: Highly Opinionated Review to Follow

In my sixty years, I've learned a little about people. Not a lot, mind you, but a little. I can now separate people into two categories: Drama Queens (male and female, against all stereotypes) and Those Who Prefer Peace and Quiet. I'm afraid I fall into the later category, and, as a result, I tend to regard DQs (quite judgmentally, I'm sad to say) as people who bring their troubles on themselves: You can't seem to have those extraordinary highs without
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars
Ariel Levy can write, and write extremely well. In fact, the book’s main strength is her writing so eloquently about grief (no spoiler: she lost a baby at 19 week’s gestation while traveling in Mongolia for work). My heart broke for her as she talks of holding her tiny son in her hands as he drew his last breath. The chapters on the loss and her overwhelming grief were the book’s strongest chapters.

The title refers to the author’s rather charmed privileged life of reaching her mid-30’s
Skyler Autumn
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
5 Stars

This book is a sneaky one, the type of read you find enjoyable at the time but then find your mind drifting back to, fondly recalling and then bringing up passionately in daily conversation to the poor victim that is forced to hear you gush. The Rules Don't Apply is an autobiography of Ariel Levy and the circumstances leading up to her losing her child, spouse, and home within a month time span and the choices she made prior to, that led up to her devastation.

Ariel Levy novel I think
Aug 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
The Rules Do Not Apply has all the ingredients of an excellent memoir. Levy leads an unconventional, interesting life and is a skilled journalist capable of crafting superb sentences.
But...I listened to his book and and felt like I was listening to a needy, self-absorbed friend who talked on and on about her bad choices, her sorrows, regrets and self-recriminations. All about her.

But wait - isn't that what a memoir is? All about the person writing the book? I've been thinking about this. The b
Jennifer Blankfein
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Rules Do Not Apply is a well written memoir about real life, disappointments, successes, grief and joy. Ariel Levy has a compulsion for adventure, drawn to untraditional relationships and the need to become “the kind of woman who is free to do whatever she chooses.” She was a writer, following stories of powerful women around the world, and during this time she also experienced much drama and trauma.

At 5 months pregnant Ariel agreed to take a business trip to Mongolia, a choice she later reg
Joy Clark
It's billed as a memoir, but The Rules Do Not Apply feels more like an exploration of grief, an attempt to make sense of tragedy and loss. And it reads beautifully. Levy doesn't pull any punches - she hits you right in the gut, baring her wounds in such raw fashion that the reader feels the knife. You know what you are in for from the very beginning - the first sentence rings with loss. Part of me wanted to stop immediately.

Warning, the rest of this review is mildly spoilery.

As a parent, my g
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I made small talk on the cold front deck of the restaurant with a curly-haired woman, and she told me about her daughters and how exhausted she was all the time, and then something turned in her head and her face looked like it wasn't sure what to do with itself. She said, "Are you the Ariel who all the bad things happened to?"

I said that I was, and wondered how many Ariels she could possibly have chosen from.

The Rules Do Not Apply is a fascinating and gritty memoir that really took me by surpri
Bonnie Brody
Feb 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Ariel Levy is a woman who grew up knowing she could have everything. She believed in the kindness of Mother Nature, the voice of reason (if it came from her), the importance of her own worth, and the ability to make her own rules. She traversed the world seeking adventure and writing about her experiences. Sometimes, her travels took her just subway stops away, but worlds apart from her day to day life - like the time she wrote an article for New York Magazine about a nightclub for obese women i ...more
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
"All of my conjuring had led to only ruin and death. Now I was a wounded witch, wailing in the forest, undone."

The writing is good, though sometimes too melodramatic for me (see above). At times it seemed disingenuous and lacked real emotion.

For me to connect with a memoirist, I have to like him/her. I failed to connect with Levy.

That said, she went through a loss I cannot even fathom and I hope getting it on paper has helped her cope.
Emily Crow
This book is hard to rate, because I enjoyed it but I didn't like it, if that even makes any sense. It is a memoir about a particularly difficult time in the author's life, in which she has a truly horrific miscarriage, endures the collapse of her marriage, and suffers some economic insecurity. (That's not a spoiler, by the way--it's right on the jacket flap.)

I will start with the positive and point out that Levy is a really good writer, and this is the book's greatest strength. And it made me t
Rachel Smalter Hall
I LOVED listening to this book, and devoured it in just a few sittings. It's a very raw, personal, and confessional memoir by a woman who wears her considerable flaws on her sleeve — in other words, it's exactly my cup of tea. The author does her own performance on the audiobook, adding another layer of intimacy to her story.

Ariel Levy recounts her troubled marriage, her wife's alcoholism, her own cheating, and all the twists and turns leading up to her fertility treatments and subsequent miscar
Jan 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, non-fiction

Quite a harrowing memoir at times. The first half was very strong and had some reflections on larger themes, but the book sort of lost that thread as Levy treaded into more personal territory in the latter half. Not that those specifics are bad but it became less universal and more particular to her experience with less reflections & analysis. Still, she is an amazing writer who I've enjoyed reading in The New Yorker, so glad I did finally pick this one up.
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found "Rules Do Not Apply" moving and relatable. She does a good job of deleaneating the spectrum of sexuality, in fact probably the best I've read anywhere. She describes her feelings about people without regard, or very little, for whether they're male or female. She chooses romantic partners based on her love for them and of course that undefinable zing that makes someone attractive though her longest romantic partner was a woman.

Her odyssey in finding a life partner and starting a family i
Book Riot Community
Back in the day, I was a fan of Levy’s first book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, about women and the rise of raunch culture. So I was thrilled to get my hands on an advance copy of her memoir, about a woman who wants it all—lifelong companionship, fantastic sex, a child of her own, and a successful journalism career—only to learn, upon losing it all, that you can’t control most things in life. It was a powerful read for a neurotic control freak like myself.

–Steph Auteri

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Play Book Tag: The Rules Do Not Apply/Levy - 4 stars 5 16 Jul 27, 2017 03:54PM  

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Ariel Levy is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, where she has written about the swimmer Diana Nyad, the Supreme Court plaintiff Edith Windsor, the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and the drug ayahuasca. She was the editor of The Best American Essays 2015. Her personal story "Thanksgiving in Mongolia" won a National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism and is the basis ...more

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87 likes · 21 comments
“I wanted what we all want: everything. We want a mate who feels like family and a lover who is exotic, surprising. We want to be youthful adventurers and middle-aged mothers. We want intimacy and autonomy, safety and stimulation, reassurance and novelty, coziness and thrills. But we can’t have it all.” 51 likes
“Daring to think that the rules do not apply is the mark of a visionary. It’s also a symptom of narcissism. —” 26 likes
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